Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III addresses Soldiers from the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) during a visit Monday to Fort Meade. The highest ranking Soldier in the Army also met with enlisted service members at the Defense Information School and the Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - In a small room packed with Soldiers, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III was immersed in the crowd.

Pacing back and forth, Chandler discussed the future of the Army with approximately 100 enlisted members of the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera).

The Monday morning visit was the first of three stops during Chandler's trip to the installation to meet with junior enlisted Soldiers and noncommissioned officers. The 14th sergeant major of the Army also met with enlisted Soldiers at the NCO Academy and the Defense Information School.

"I conduct reconnaissance," Chandler said. "My job is to go out there and be a scout, look at what Soldiers have to say, tell them what's going on with the Army and then take that back to the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army and tell them this is what's on Soldiers' minds."

During his visit to Fort Meade, Chandler -- the highest-ranking enlisted Soldier in the Army -- discussed many of the issues related to enlisted service members, including their military careers and family's quality of life.

In his remarks to 55th Combat Camera, Chandler talked about reducing the size of the force and possible changes to the military's retirement system.

"Retirement is also a big issue right now with the idea of making changes in any of the retirement plans that are out there for the Soldiers," he said.

During his remarks, Chandler said all areas of the military budget are being reviewed in support of DoD efficiency initiatives, but he wanted Soldiers to know that senior Army leadership is committed to keeping the current retirement benefits for Soldiers presently serving.

"This is about trust," he said. "The American people trust you to do a job. The Soldiers serve in trust of the American people to provide their quality of life, pay and allowances in exchange."

Chandler also gave Soldiers an opportunity to ask him questions and talk about their concerns. Among the topics discussed at 55th Combat Camera were changes to the NCO promotion system, the new physical fitness test and changes to the wear and appearance of the Army uniform.

Several 55th Combat Camera Soldiers said Chandler is easy to talk to and very approachable.

"I was extremely glad he stopped by," Spc. Marquetta Gibson said. "It's not a normal, everyday thing for the sergeant major of the Army to stop by the company and to see how his Soldiers are doing."

Chandler also recognized the achievements of several Soldiers, awarding them a Sergeant Major of the Army coin. Gibson was among the 11 other members of 55th Combat Camera honored for their work while documenting the 2011 Best Warrior Competition earlier this month at Fort Lee, Va.

"It's an honor," Gibson said. "I felt extremely proud."

Chandler ended his visits by thanking the NCOs and younger Soldiers for their service during wartime.

"If you entered the Army after 9/11, you're my personal hero. ... You came in, you know you're going to go into harm's way eventually and you continue to serve -- and that's an amazing thing," Chandler said. "Thank you for your service."

Page last updated Thu October 27th, 2011 at 00:00